For the first time ever, the two big Manchester clubs squared off in an FA Cup final yesterday.
City were the overwhelming favourites and they showed just why that was the case with a controlled win to complete a domestic double.
They deserve credit for their performance, although Manchester United did not exactly help themselves.
One player was chiefly responsible for why they are still some way adrift of their rivals despite losing by just a goal.
That player was goalkeeper David de Gea, whose performance was around the overall standard he has shown this season.
That only makes it more incriminating because a standard De Gea performance was bad enough to allow Manchester City to dominate the match.
To rub salt into the wounds, the Premier League champions fielded their reserve goalkeeper, and he showed just what United are missing.
Before both keepers could even touch the ball, United went behind after conceding the earliest goal in an FA Cup final.
When the goalkeepers did touch the ball, this is what happened:
United only went back to De Gea when they had no other option, and even under the slightest hint of pressure, the Spaniard booted it forward…
…out of play or all the way to Stefan Ortega. If it reached the German goalkeeper, he would put it down and start Man City’s build-up, playing an integral part in it by functioning as a part of the back line in the central-right position of a four, filling in the gap left by John Stones moving into midfield.
So, while Man City played out from the back and carefully kept possession, United lost it half the time the ball went to De Gea. The Spaniard’s passing accuracy was just 49%, while Ortega’s was 90%.
Ortega’s ball-playing ability that allowed City to play out from the back is nothing special — almost every half-decent keeper in the world today can do that.
The German excels because of his composure on the ball and pinpoint passing ability, which are two crucial characteristics he shares with Ederson that make him a great back-up.
Thanks to those qualities, City can not only play out from the back but play through almost any press. Indeed, pressing Pep Guardiola’s side is becoming an increasingly futile exercise.
United seemed to recognise that, as they set out in a 4-2-4 high block where the narrow front four focused on preventing City from accessing their double pivot in midfield.
The idea behind this was a pretty smart one and the execution was done well too, but City had their ways past it.
They could not play through the middle, so they simply went around by asking their full-backs to stay relatively wide and channelled their ball progression through them.
This approach is quite visible in City’s passmap, where most passing links forward from defence originate from the full-backs.
United’s defensive performance was very good on the whole. They certainly did not get played through, and even as City progressed out wide, they were able to drop back into a compact block in their own half and defended their box quite well.
Ultimately, they only conceded to two shots from outside the box, one of which was almost straight from the kick-off while the other was a set-piece.
United never looked like winning. They did equalise after being awarded a very contentious penalty but failed to look remotely threatening in open play.
Their build-up was effectively non-existent due to De Gea as we previously discussed, and they did not really pose much of a counterattacking threat either.
He may have won the Golden Glove (which should be more of a team award anyway), but this match has once again outlined why United must move on from De Gea if they want to seriously compete with the best sides in the country.
Stats and images courtesy Wyscout, FotMob and Opta Analyst.